POSTED: December 3rd 2009

Same again for football at London 2012 after FIFA backs down

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

CAPE TOWN, Dec 03: FIFA has stepped back from the brink of a confrontation with the International Olympic Committee over football at the Olympic Games.

London 2012 will host football under precisely the same rules and regulations as Beijing in 2008 – that is, with a tournament restricted to players below the age of 23 but with three over-age players permitted.

In fact, only a handful of the 16 finalists in Beijing utilised the over-age allowance, one being Brazil with Ronaldinho and another being ultimate gold-medallists Argentine with Javier Mascherano.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter had talked in Beijing of scrapping the over-age exception but then both the European and South Americans wanted the tournament reduced to an under-21 level. This upset the IOC which feared a further loss of prestige of a sport which remains one of its biggest ticket-sellers.

Blatter sent the issue off to a study group which, basically, allowed FIFA to run down the clock on a change in the rules for London.

Blatter said, after an executive committee meeting on Robben Island: “This was done for the sake of solidarity. At the World Cup we have the best 32 teams in the world but at the Olympic Games it’s different.

"Other teams have their chance and experience has shown us that twice in the past an African team were the winners. So, when this was discussed the others understood it was only fair to let the others play in a big competition.”

FIFA also felt, significantly, that with the qualifying competition due to start early next year, it was too late now to change the system. Discussions will begin in February on what happens from the 2016 Olympics onwards.

Keywords · FIFA · World Cup · Olympic Games · London 2012 · Blatter ·

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